For many of us, this is a familiar scene: You get home from work, aching to wind down after a long day, only to be yanked out of your post-nine-to-five bliss by a jarring message left on your answering machine by someone claiming to be from the IRS.
The messages vary, but the scripts typically read something like this: “We have made several attempts to reach you. This is officially a final notice from the Internal Revenue Service. The reason for this call is to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. An urgent callback is necessary.” In the more menacing versions, the caller threatens police arrest, deportation, license revocation, and the levying of liens on the recipient’s assets and bank accounts within 24 hours unless some phantom past-due amount is settled.
Although these voicemails might seem laughable to the savvy tax practitioner, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) has reported that nearly 3,000 victims have been collectively swindled out of more than $14 million as a result of these phone scams. Along with identity theft and phishing scams (emails email about a tax bill or refund claiming to be from the IRS), these phone scams ranked in the top three tax scams for 2016.
The fact is, many of our friends and neighbors are indeed vulnerable to these scammers because they don’t know one thing: The IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer by phone, email, text messages or social media channels.
The IRS will always send notices regarding tax delinquencies, refunds, and even suspected civil tax fraud by mail. The only exception to this rule are cases of suspected criminal tax fraud, where an IRS Special Agent will actually show up on your doorstep, with proper identification. In those cases, however, I would advise that the taxpayer concern himself less with whether he is being scammed, and more with whether he knows a good tax attorney.
In any event, I encourage the readers of this blog to disseminate this information to their friends and families, because you never know who the next victim might be.
To report an phone scam to the TIGTA, email the IRS at email@example.com (Subject: ‘IRS Phone Scam’), or visit https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
To learn more about IRS phone scams, visit: https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/phone-scams-continue-to-be-a-serious-threat-remain-on-irs-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-the-2016-filing-season
To learn more about the 2016 IRS “Dirty Dozen” List, visit: https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/irs-wraps-up-the-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2016